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Florida Hurricanes 1992

Florida only had one hurricane in 1992, but it came on fast and furious.  Andrew hit the very tip of South Florida and the Florida Keys like a freight train.

To give us a run-down on Andrew, I'm pleased to present the following article by Bruce Supranowicz. There's a lot of fascinating information here for weather-watchers!

1992 - South Florida is Devastated

1992 was a quiet tropical season, but the only storm which affected Florida will be long-remembered. It was Andrew, a category 5 hurricane which leveled some areas south of Miami.

On August 16, Andrew formed as a tropical depression in the east-central tropical Atlantic, about 1600 miles east of the Windward Islands. It became a tropical storm the next day as it advanced steadily towards the west-northwest.

This system didn’t strengthen much for a few days after that, as a persistent upper-level low was located to the northwest of Andrew, moving generally in tandem with the storm. The southwest shear from the upper low interfered with Andrew’s outflow and kept it disorganized.

By August 20, Andrew, a weak and disorganized tropical storm located about 375 miles northeast of Puerto Rico, turned more towards the northwest as the upper-level low influenced its forward direction of motion. The tropical storm became so disorganized that there was barely a circulation at the surface, with a surface pressure of 1015 MB, an incredibly high pressure for a tropical storm. The fact that the circulation was still well-discernable at the mid-levels of the atmosphere was about the only thing holding it together.

But then, things began to change.

The upper-level low which had kept Andrew from strengthening moved away, to the north and northeast, and a strong ridge began to build to the northwest of Andrew. As Andrew came under the influence of this ridge, it veered to the west-northwest and then the west. It also started to strengthen.

By midday on August 21, Andrew was located about 420 miles north of Puerto Rico with 60-MPH sustained winds. It was also becoming better-organized. Normally, a storm in that position would miss the Southeastern U.S. completely and perhaps the entire U.S. east coast, but the ridge to the north of Andrew continued to strengthen. In response, Andrew’s forward motion towards the west sped up, from a moderate 12 MPH pace to about 17 MPH.

With conditions aloft finally ideal for strengthening, Andrew responded by increasing its sustained win speed from 60 MPH to 170 MPH in two days. By that time, midday on August 23, Andrew was a small but very vicious hurricane, located about 250 miles a little south of due east of Miami.

As frantic Floridians were boarding up along the southeast coast of Florida, the first intermittent squalls of Andrew moved ashore. Andrew weakened somewhat from category 5 status but was still a very potent category 4 hurricane** with 150-MPH sustained winds when it hit the coast near Homestead, about forty miles southwest of Miami, early on August 24.

Although intense, Andrew was small in size. Tropical storm-force winds extended only as far north as the West Palm Beach/Jupiter area, but the winds were progressively stronger the further south one went. While windows were blown out in some Miami skyscrapers along with downed palm trees in abundance along its boulevards, the real damage was confined to a 40-mile-wide area south of Miami to just south of Florida City, near Homestead.

Those areas looked like a war zone.

Some homes were completely destroyed and only the hollowed-out frames were left from some department stores. The metal frames of large auto dealership signs along U.S. 1 near Homestead were completely twisted and warped. The Australian pine trees still left standing were completely stripped, while the others were snapped like twigs.

Andrew continued westward through extreme south Florida and moved out into the Gulf of Mexico later on August 24. It gradually turned towards the west-northwest and northwest over the next day while a category 4 hurricane and hit the coast of Louisiana east of Morgan City as a category 2 hurricane on August 26. Andrew weakened rapidly after that as it veered towards the northeast but was a storm which will never be forgotten by those who experienced it.

**Some sources have upgraded Andrew to a category 5 storm when it hit South Florida, while others maintain it was a category 4, as originally announced.  All in all, 5 miles an hour difference didn't matter -- either way, the extreme southern portion of Florida and the Upper Keys were badly hurt.

Wow -- that's some write-up! Thanks a bunch, Bruce, and you can check out more of his "storm stories" on the Articles page.


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